While the dreams of a conference championship have come to an end, the Shippensburg University volleyball team can be proud of how far it came.
After pulling out a clutch match win in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) quarterfinals against Millersville University on Tuesday, the Raiders traveled to take on Seton Hill University in the semifinal round on Friday.
The win over MU was a wild affair, featuring several lead changes and tense finishes in each set leading up to a five-set victory.
The Raiders took the first set with ease by a 25–18 score, before the Marauders stormed back in the second, 25–22, to even up the match. SU was in a hole after the third set (25–18), but came back to claim the closing two sets for the win (25–18, 19–17).
The Raiders had to fight tooth-and-nail for the deciding fifth set, as they had to overcome seven ties and four lead changes. The match point was also back-and-forth — SU claimed the first, but MU came back to force two of its own, before the Raiders forced the final match point and sealed the victory.
Sophomore Emily Hangen was the catalyst all night for the Raider squad, racking up a career-high 60 assists as well as 17 digs.
Her 60 assists were the most by a Raider since 2009 and they were the most by a player in the PSAC this season.
Junior Megan Forstburg led the team with 31 digs on the night, while fellow junior Gabriella Johnson grabbed 27 to put her over 1,000 digs in her career. Johnson added 10 kills to grab her 12th double-double.
Senior Morgan DeFloria was solid, clinching her 18th double-double of the season with 18 kills and 17 digs on .213 hitting. Newly-crowned PSAC Central Division Athlete of the Week, junior Samantha Webber, continued her good form, falling just shy of her career-high with 21 kills and a .386 hitting percentage.
Redshirt-senior Courtney Malott had a few key plays in the match, including a pivotal kill that sparked the late Raider rally to force the match point in the fifth set. She finished with 14 digs and an ace.
The semifinal appearance was the first for SU since 2015 — the season in which the Raiders captured their first conference title in program history — and the ninth overall under coach Leanne Piscotty.
The first matchup between the Raiders and the Griffins ended in a straight-set victory for SU, but SHU only lost twice after that matchup on its way to the semifinal contest.
It was not meant to end the same way for SU this time around, as the two teams were knotted up after two sets (25–20 SU, 25–22 SHU), but the Griffins went on to claim the final two sets (27–25, 25–16) and move on to the PSAC championship match. SHU totaled 13 blocks on the day — a season-high against SU — and the Raiders committed 16 service errors in an otherwise fairly even match.
Gabriella Johnson was stellar again, co-leading the team with 15 kills along with 16 digs on a team-high .293 hitting percentage. Webber matched Johnson’s output with another 15 kills on .275 hitting. Her performance in the playoffs (36 kills across both matches) helped her break the 1,000-kill mark and move into 10th on SU’s all-time list.
DeFloria grabbed a double-double in her final conference contest for the second consecutive match with 12 kills and 19 digs.
Hangen finished the playoffs with more than 100 assists, contributing 52 more in the SHU matchup and moving into sixth in assists on the all-time SU list. She also had three block assists.
The week of new rankings continued as Forstburg moved into seventh on SU’s digs list after grabbing 28 more against the Griffins. Junior Kendall Johnson also climbed into ninth in blocks.
The Raiders’ season is by no means over, as the team anxiously waited to find out its fate on Sunday night with the NCAA Selection Show.
SU was ranked as the No. 4 team in the Atlantic Region, so the squad will face Clarion University in the opening round. The date of the matchup has not been determined yet, but the tournament will be held at No. 1-ranked Wheeling Jesuit University.